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Solyndra’s lasers sold off at auction

07 Nov 2011

Bankrupt solar firm raises cash through sale of non-core assets, including a wide range of optical equipment.

Solyndra, the thin-film photovoltaics company that made an infamous Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection filing in September, sold off a number of lasers and other photonics systems at last week's auction of non-core assets organized by Heritage Global Partners.

The sale of more than 8500 lots judged ‘not necessary for the operation of [Solyndra’s] business’, and ranging from company polo shirts and banners to a scanning electron microscope, raised an aggregate $6.2 million.

That total included a large number of Spectra Physics Q-switched lasers, at least nine of which appear to have been purchased by refurbished equipment specialist Electrolab for a total of just under $50,000.

Also sold were four Miyachi Unitek pulsed Nd:YAG high-speed laser welding systems offering various output energies. A company called Tec Associates bought those systems, which were used at Solyndra’s Milpitas facility, for between $8500 and $12,500 each, and an aggregate $42,000.

Meanwhile, the Outback Equipment Company successfully bid $11,000 for a Trumpf TruDisk 1000 laser, a 1 kW system based on the German firm’s thin-disk architecture that operates at 1030 nm and is typically used in welding applications.

Other optical lots included a large number of breadboards, isolation tables from Newport, optical components and fiber-coupled diode lasers from Thorlabs, while the most expensive sale was lot 502, an FEI Quanta 3D scanning electron microscope bought by Scanservice for $255,000.

China responds to ITC petition
Some have sought to blame the demise of Solyndra on the rapidly declining cost of crystalline silicon cells and modules from China, which could provide electricity more cheaply than the Californian company’s relatively complex approach of depositing thin CIGS films on cylindrical glass tubes.

And following the petition sent by the US subsidiary of Germany-based Solarworld to the US International Trade Commission alleging that Chinese companies in receipt of massive government subsidies are dumping cheap silicon cells in the US, thereby artificially pricing US manufacturers out of the market, the Chinese PV industry has issued a statement objecting to the claims.

A group of representative organizations highlighted six key points in its statement, including the role that solar electricity can play in reducing carbon dioxide emissions, and the general expansion of production scale of both cells and raw materials in recent years that has driven down the cost of the technology markedly.

The group also pointed out that China had gained considerable experience from earlier US and European developments, such as the feed-in tariff financing mechanism that it has now introduced domestically, as well as the globalized nature of the PV supply chain.

And in an apparent dig at companies like Solyndra, it added that “although the market is expanding, some investors have misread the opportunities”, before saying: “It is a normal phenomenon in any industry segment, not only the PV solar cell industry, that certain out-of-date technologies or certain manufacturers with disadvantageous high costs will be eliminated from the market, and it is also currently happening in China.”

The statement also points out that China is becoming a large PV market itself. Last week, First Solar – a US-based manufacturer that is not believed to be part of the SolarWorld coalition behind the ITC petition, not least because its CdTe panels are already the cheapest around - said that it expected China’s next five-year plan to raise its solar installation goals to 10 GW by 2015 and 50 GW by the end of the decade.

Urging SolarWorld to withdraw the petition and the US government to pay careful attention to whether or not it represents a position taken by the wider solar industry in the US, it concluded. “The benefits of PV energy developers in the US will be severely harmed by the unavailability of competitive products."

"In short, the investigation will harm many, without benefits to anyone but the petitioner."

LaCroix Precision OpticsMad City Labs, Inc.ECOPTIKUniverse Kogaku America Inc.AlluxaLASEROPTIK GmbHCHROMA TECHNOLOGY CORP.
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